It sounds devious, I know. Using your customers fears to increase sales.
But let me explain myself.
I’ve been reading everything I can on how to grow your business: How to Grow Your Business in 10 Days, The Number One Way to Grow Your Business, 7 Steps to Growing Your Business, etc.
It’s all garbage. Useless garbage.
Why? Because none of it gets to the root of business growth problems, and none of it attempts to give you a fundamental solution.
That’s what you’re trying to do, isn’t it? Not just learn some new tip, but find a fundamental solution, a basic way of thinking that will uncover explosive growth for your small business.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Growing your business is hard. If you could find just one additional customer today, I know you’d call it a win.
So let’s figure out how to do that, and let’s do it quick. Let’s get to the root of the problem nearly every small business has: finding their customers, adding new customers, and ultimately growing their business.
Your Customers Aren’t Just Anywhere
You see, your customers aren’t just anywhere. They visit certain locations. They hang out with certain types of people. They shop at certain stores and search for particular products.
Knowing where to find your customers is necessary if you want to market to them. If you don’t know where your customers are, your advertisements, search engine optimizations, content marketing efforts, etc. are going to either a) miss your customers entirely or b) cost you an arm and a leg to distribute your message widely enough to get a small amount of traction.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Have your past marketing efforts fallen on deaf ears? Have your previous advertisements cost you way too much for far too little gain? You’re not alone. This is a common problem nearly every small business faces.
Let me give you an example.
If you are running a business to sell baby formula, your customers are not going to be hanging out in bars, dining out in fancy restaurants, or joining Facebook groups for parents with teenagers. As a parent with a toddler, I can tell you the next time I eat at a fancy restaurant will be when my daughter is old enough to stay home by herself.
In this example, your customers are probably shopping at Baby’s R Us. They are probably joining Facebook groups with other Moms and Dads with newborns. They are probably reading parenting blogs, searching the internet for the best thing to feed their baby, and reading heated online debates about the benefits of baby formula vs. mother’s milk.
Now, this may be a straightforward example for anyone with children. But your business is different. Your customers may be more complicated. It may be harder to find them.
So where do you start? What question can you ask to discover their whereabouts and design a message that entices them to buy your product?
You’ve got to start by asking…
What Keeps My Customers Up at Night?
Before we can know how to create a compelling message for our customers, we have to know one thing: What keeps them up at night?
Stop right now, grab a pen and paper, and write down answers to the following questions:
- What keeps your customer awake at night?
- What are their deepest desires?
- What are their most motivating goals?
- What is it that gets them so excited they can’t sleep?
- What fears do they have that prevent them from nodding off?
These are your customer’s motivations. These are what drive their behaviors.
If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you haven’t defined your customer and trying to sell to them will be no better than shooting in the dark.
Sure, you may get a sale here and there, but you won’t understand why.
You may “bump into” a new opportunity, but it will feel like luck.
And you know as well as I that you can’t run a business on luck. You have to predict sales, measure growth, and define goals.
To do that, you must know your customer’s desires and understand their motivations. Only then can you craft a message that resonates, incentivizes, and motivates them to buy.
But even the most optimal message for your customers won’t generate a single sale if it’s not displayed in the right spot at the right time. And so, once we understand our customer’s motivations, desires, goals, and fears, we must ask the next most important question:
Where do My Customers Congregate?
Remember the baby formula example? Those customers weren’t looking for that product at a bar, fancy restaurant, or tech store. Those customers weren’t even congregating there.
Those customers were staying home with their infant, visiting the grocery store as needed, buying toys and diapers at baby stores and online, and talking with other new parents on social media.
This is where those customers congregate. This is where they hang out. These are the types of people they spend time with.
But what about your business?
Take that pen and paper (you still have it handy right?) and write down answers to the following:
- For every problem that keeps your customer awake at night, where do they go to solve their problem?
- For every deep desire your customer has, where do they go to fulfill their desire?
- For every goal your customer has, where do they go to get closer to that goal?
- Are your customers excited or afraid? Where do they go to share that excitement or hide from those fears?
This isn’t just about physical locations, by the way. Who do your customers talk to? What websites do they visit? What stores do they shop at?
These are the places where your customers congregate. These are the places you can take your message and find customers who are willing to spend money on the products or services you offer.
Fundamental Questions to Growth
These two questions are key to growing your business:
- What keeps your customers up at night?
- Where do your customers congregate because of it?
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let me give another example… this time, a real one that has proven successful.
My wife is a speech language pathologist. She has helped dozens of children become more fluent, articulate better, and ease their stuttering.
Her customers aren’t the children she helps; they don’t actively seek her services. Their parents do.
And, when it comes to their children, parents have many motivations:
- Fear their kids won’t have friends
- Hopes that their children will become successful
- A deep desire for their child to live a “normal” childhood.
This is what keeps them up at night. This is what motivates them.
And in the morning, after a bad night’s sleep worrying about this and more, they go looking for help. Where?
- On Facebook, by asking their friends if they know speech language pathologists in the area.
- At school, to ask for county services and help.
- At their child’s pediatrician, asking for referrals to private speech language pathologists.
- And on the web, using search engines like Google to find speech services near them.
And so, as you can see, my wife knows the answers to our two important business growth questions—She knows what keeps her customers up at night and where they go to find help.
But here’s the important part. She’s not preying on their fears. She’s not making empty promises to people with deep desires. She’s creating a message that helps her customers understand how she can help, and she’s taking that message to where her customers congregate so they can see and have hope.
She prints referral cards for local pediatricians with contact information and descriptions of how she can help remediate stuttering.
She places messages of help and hope on Facebook where her customers are looking for comfort and aid.
She’s targeting local searches on Google and other search engines so parents can easily find her.
And then, when one of those customers calls, she helps them.
The Point of Business
This is what business is all about, isn’t it? Helping people by using the skills and experiences that are unique to you?
I’ve heard some say otherwise. I’ve heard some say business is all about making money. And sure, money is important, but if you want to grow your business, you can’t focus solely on the money. You’ve got to understand your customers, know where they exist so you can sell to them, and sell to them so you can help them.
This brings me back to the beginning… the dozens of useless tips I read about growing your business.
Before you leave this article, let’s take a look at a few of these tips with a new-found understanding of business growth:
Tip 1: Outsource
A good tip for many reasons, but will it help you grow your business? Only if you already have so much you are slammed for time.
Fundamentally, outsourcing doesn’t help you grow. It helps you focus.
If you have so much business you need to outsource or hire, you’ve already figured out what keeps your customers up at night and where to find them. Now you just need to serve them.
Tip 2: Be Passionate
Yes, this was a real tip. Seriously? Be passionate?
I’m passionate, and that hasn’t helped me do anything other than stay motivated, focused, and moving forward when times were rough.
Being passionate is important, no doubt. But it doesn’t help you understand your customers, and it doesn’t help you find them.
Tip 3: Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Helpful? Sure. But only for building a strategy, not for growing. To grow you need to sell, and to sell you need to—you guessed it—understand your customers and market to them.
Tip 4: Form an Alliance
Okay, I like this one because it goes back to the two fundamental questions we’re asking here.
If you know of a partner who can solve your customer’s problems better than you, this might be a good strategy. If you know of a partner who commands a different part of the market in which your customers congregate, this could open many doors to new sales.
Tip 5: Open a Separate Location
This could also be a good tip, but opening a new site isn’t always the answer. Doing so could incur more overhead, take more of your precious time, etc.
If you’ve determined that your products and/or services are solving your customer’s problems but you simply cannot reach them in your current location, take a look… but only when you are certain that this is where your customers are congregating (and that they are eager and ready to spend money).
Some other tips I read had to do with diversifying, spending more time selling, landing government customers, etc.
Some of these tips are useless, others are fine, but none fundamentally addresses what is needed for business growth.
I would equate most of these tips to a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. You can’t just patch the wound; you’ve got to get that bullet out!
So, as you scour the internet for advice like this, be sure you are thinking back to this post and asking yourself, do these tips help me find my customers and understand their needs? If they don't do both, they probably aren't going to help you grow.
Sales is About Helping
Take some time to think about what keeps your customers awake at night. Take some time to think about where your customers congregate to solve their problems.
Then, armed with answers to these questions, go listen to your customers and figure out how you can help them.
Sales is all about helping after all.
It’s not about pitching features of your product or forcing your customers to buy something they don’t need.
It’s about listening, building a relationship, and making your customers successful. It’s about listening to their fears, their desires, their problems, and their needs; then matching the solutions you provide to help them.
If you can do that—if you can understand what motivates your customer, know where they go to solve their problems, then listen and learn to find a solution to their problem, your sales will drive your business to grow. You will find yourself with repeat customers in the future, and you will find your company with a highly reputable brand that your customers have come to love and respect.
Tell us in the comments below how you increased your sales and grew your business. Oh, and there are a lot of small business owners out there, so please share to help others like you.